AZ Regents asking state for $1 billion bond to expand university research

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Big improvements could be coming to the University of Arizona.

The Arizona Board of Regents is making its case to state lawmakers for one billion dollars in bond money for all three public universities.

The regents say the investment will be more than paid back through increased research grants and breakthroughs that will improve our lives.

The goal is to boost research efforts at each school.

In fact, by 2020, the regents want each university to double its research output, but that takes money.

Under the request, the University of Arizona would get $450 million.

Arizona State University would get $400 million.

Northern Arizona University would get $150 million.

The expectation is that for every one dollar the state invests in research infrastructure at the three universities, the return will be seven dollars.

The last time the state made such an investment was in 2003.

New research buildings with new laboratories went up at the University of Arizona.

The UA says the return then was 10-to-1, so the school expects to get 7-to-1 easily.

The university says when you increase research, you increase economic growth and grow your educated workforce.

The UA says those are two things industries like when they are looking to bring high-paying jobs to a city like Tucson.

The bond money would pay for new buildings and for renovating older ones.

The university says it would mean up t0 5,000 construction jobs in Tucson alone over the three or four years of construction.

"Research is a huge economic development engine. Research brings in federal dollars from out of state. So those are new dollars into the state of Arizona that go to pay staff salaries and have a multiplier effect on the economy. And then simply the construction on the new buildings themselves provides jobs," says UA Interim Vice President for Research Dr. Jennifer Barton.

Dr. Barton says UA research brought more than $632 million dollars into the economy last year.

If the state approves the bond, it's estimated that amount would climb to more than a billion dollars a year coming to Tucson from outside the state:  From the federal government, from foundations and from industry.

However, it's not only about money.

There are also the practical benefits for Tucsonans.

Over the years we've reported on research done at the university that has had positive effects on our health, our lifestyles, even our wallets.

For much of Tucson, what goes on inside the laboratories at the University of Arizona might be a mystery.

However, whether you know it or not, what has been discovered there or developed there likely has affected your life in one way or another.

University research leads to discoveries.

It trains the workforce that employers are looking for, and it leads to the creation of products and services that improve our lives.

"Probably the clearest example of that is over in the our Health Sciences Center where we have people working on new drugs to treat cancer, new ways of preventing diabetics from having to undergo amputations, make their lives healthier. Over in our engineering college we have people who are working on new wireless devices to make things more convenient, keeping our lives more secure. Over in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences we have people working on how to make crops more productive," says Dr. Barton.

She says that can help bring down food prices.

Here's how the UA's $450 million dollars would be used.

$386 million would go to new construction or building expansion.

$40 million would be used to renovate existing buildings.

Another $24 million would upgrade infrastructure to support all that.

If the state decides to issue the one-billion-dollar bond, Barton says construction in Tucson could begin as early as 2015.

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